Employers in the U.S. have been adding jobs at an impressive clip — an average of 200,000 a month for the last six months — but any joy about a booming economic recovery has to once again be tempered by a healthy dose of, "Yeah, but..."
The monthly jobs report for June came out this morning, and it beat expectations once again with 195,000 non-farm jobs added. Reports from previous months were revised upwards as well. Private payrolls are up, hours worked are steady, hourly wages are up, and the stock market responded as well, and it wasn't great enough to scare investors into thinking that the Federal Reserve is going to cut off all its market stimulus.
So what's the bad news? Well, there isn't bad news so much as the usual reminders that things are not as great as they could be. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7.6 percent, because more people are looking for work. (Again, that on its own could be a good thing, unless those new people also can't find jobs.) There's also the U-6 unemployment rate, which counts "marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons." That's jumped way up back above 14 percent. And long-term unemployed people (who have been out of work for six-months or more) are still getting crushed by their difficult predicament.
Maybe the biggest "bummer" of all is that despite the positive numbers, the vast majority of new jobs are in the service sector: hotel, hospitality, restaurant, and fast-food workers. That's great for those people, and a sign that others are spending money again, but those are also the lowest-paid and least secure jobs out there. That's not exactly the foundation of a rock-solid economy.
So once again, we're left with economic news that's good, but maybe not great, and definitely not where it was before all the trouble started and it seemed like everyone would be rich forever. Will we ever get to where we want it to be, or is this as good at it gets now?